Moves to rush through plans for a new leisure centre at Canada Water have been criticised by local residents and Liberal Democrat councillors for not answering key questions on safety, loss of local green space and resident involvement.
Southwark’s Labour council announced plans during the summer holidays to build a new leisure centre as part of the Canada Water regeneration scheme. The existing leisure centre at Seven Islands, Lower Road would be demolished. The Council wants to build the new leisure centre on existing green space by Hothfield Place and Hithe Grove.
Residents around the proposed site were up in arms about the way the Council announced its plans over the holidays and had failed to keep its word on consulting residents about other possible options for improved leisure facilities.
Local Liberal Democrat councillors have been asking the Council for months whether it is safe to build a swimming pool and leisure centre partly over the underground line tunnel between Canada Water and Surrey Quays tube stations. Because the Council has failed to provide answers, Liberal Democrats tabled a Freedom of Information request about evidence from professional structural engineers and Transport for London as to whether this kind of construction is considered safe.
Southwark Liberal Democrat councillors also tabled a Freedom of Information request asking what other sites the Council considered for a new leisure centre before announcing its preferred choice. They have also criticised the Labour Leader of the Council for attacking residents on social media for talking about their concerns in the local press.
Following residents’ objections, Liberal Democrat councillors persuaded the Council to ‘call in’ the decision to allow greater scrutiny. The Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 7 September heard evidence from people living in the area and this was supported by Liberal Democrat councillors. The Committee agreed that the upcoming consultation on a new leisure centre should include other sites, including the current Seven Islands leisure centre.
Southwark Liberal Democrat Leisure Spokesperson, Councillor Lisa Rajan, said:
“The shock announcement over the summer holidays showed, yet again, that it wasn’t listening to local residents and their very real fears about the safety and suitability of the Council’s preferred site for a new leisure centre at Canada Water.
“As one of the local councillors, I have been asking the Council for months to show what evidence they have that building a swimming pool and leisure centre over the underground line and tunnel is safe. Yet they have failed to answer. That’s why I have tabled a Freedom of Information request to try and prise this information out of the Council. No decision should be made until everyone has seen the engineers’ reports.
“Residents are rightly unhappy that the Council has announced the site for a new leisure centre without saying whether other sites, including the existing Seven Islands leisure centre, have been considered. The Labour council needs to be open about its plans and our request to scrutinise the plans this week was an important first step.
“The Council has serious questions to answer about the Canada Water leisure centre consultation, its timing and lack of detail on safety and environmental impact. Liberal Democrats are fighting residents’ corner and will not let up in making sure all this information is included in the consultation before any final decision is made.”